ROTC conducts annual parade ceremony

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville-Pilchuck High School Naval Junior ROTC conducted their annual evening parade ceremony Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in the M-PHS gym, filling the stands with family members, friends, community members and distinguished visitors who wanted to see the 118 cadets showing their stuff.

The cadets’ day started at 7:30 a.m. with a two-hour inspection from retired Navy Capt. Daniel Wenceslao, NJROTC Area Manager Area 13, who awarded them a Bravo Zulu. Wenceslao noted that the staff officers received an average inspection score of 9.6 out of 10, while the rest of the cadets received an inspection score of 8.6 out of 10. Out of the 118 cadets, 24 received a perfect 10 out of 10 on their inspection scores.

“When you go back to the same school, year after year, you get to see these kids grow into young adults,” Wenceslao said. “These cadets look good, sound good and are confident.”

Rear Adm. James Symonds, Commander Navy Region Northwest, praised the cadets for learning about leadership, teamwork and sacrifice, subjects that he told them would serve them in good stead whether they went on to join the military or not.

“You’ll find that these experiences will set you on a path ahead of your peers,” Symonds said. “To the parents who have given these cadets such support, I say that you have shown them that you care about their future.”

The cadets themselves joined NJROTC for a variety of reasons. While Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Deal and Cadet Ensign Mark Blankenship Jr. were both inclined toward the military already, Cadet Lt. Amy Hunziker had no interest in it at first. Even Deal was originally planning on joining the Air Force Academy after graduation, before his exposure to the Navy made him decide on sea duty instead.

“I want to fly search and rescue helicopters,” Deal said. “I love the ocean and I’m interested in marine science, biology and weather.”

Both Deal and Blankenship find the discipline of the military lifestyle appealing. Deal has always had a passion for serving others, which led him to consider careers in police and firefighting, while Blankenship comes from a Navy family. Although they both acknowledged the long hours of NJROTC, which Deal estimated to be more than a dozen per week, they both deemed it worthwhile.

“What I enjoy most is being a role model for the other cadets,” Blankenship said.

“He’s grown every year since he started this,” said Grace Blankenship, Mark’s mom. “He focuses so much on what he does that it’s no surprise that he makes it happen.”

At first, Hunziker actually saw NJROTC as an easy way out of physical education. During her first year, Wenceslao marked her down on her inspection for using baby oil to make her shoes shine. Since then, he’s expressed pride in her progress, as have her parents.

“We didn’t pass classes before,” said Ann Larson, Amy’s mom. “This really changed her focus. Her GPA has gone up two full points.”

“Originally, I didn’t want to join because my brother was in it,” Hunziker said. “I didn’t think I’d like it, but it’s been so much fun.”

“I enjoy preparing these kids for life after high school,” said retired Master Chief Petty Officer Ed Dawson, naval science instructor for the M-PHS NJROTC. “I can’t think of a better second career.”

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